SIOUX CITY | Glittery garland, vintage lights, Christmas ornaments and shiny poinsettias are just some of the festive decorations you'll find on "ugly" sweaters and sweatshirts created by dozens of volunteers to raise money for safety equipment for Mercy Home Care patients.

Wendy Beavers, account executive for Mercy Home Care, decided to organize the fundraiser after volunteering to make ugly sweaters for an event last year.

"I thought then, 'This is really cool. This has got potential to make some money for something,'" recalled Beavers, who spread the word about her desire to start an ugly sweater fundraiser for Mercy Home Care via Facebook.

Soon the new and gently used sweaters and sweatshirts came pouring in from friends and businesses along with festive Christmas decorations. Beavers also scored supplies from the Sioux City Kmart, which closed its doors last year, and garage sales. Faith Fisher, a social worker with Mercy Home Care, raided her art box for sparkly pom poms, string and other crafting products.

"The accessories are just coming from everywhere and anywhere. That's the best way to get the craziness. If you tried to plan it, it wouldn't be near as unique," said Beavers, who said you'll find fur, as well as flamingos, in the ugly Christmas sweater collection. "The uglier the better. Sometimes it just has to kind of touch the heart a little bit."

Revathi Truong, volunteer coordinator at Mercy, rounded up high school volunteers, who met on Tuesday nights to create ugly sweaters. The Siouxland Crafters Club, the Siouxland Center for Active Generations, Floyd Place Assisted Living in Sergeant Bluff, Sioux City Fence, The Stuck Layman Rose Group and former patients also assisted in the decorating process.

"They like to build Christmas trees out of garland and then put ornaments all over the sweater, so very Christmas-festive," Truong said of her volunteers' sweater themes.

As of Oct. 26, Beavers had 112 completed ugly sweaters in her possession, 35 of which light up. She hopes to amass 200 sweaters, which will be sold alongside limited accessories in Mercy's lobby Nov. 13-15 and Dec. 4-5.

Beavers described the market for the eye-catching textiles as "huge," as ugly sweater parties are trending during the holiday season.

Promote peace on earth while wearing an orange cable sweater with fringes and retro flowers. Watch for Santa Claus while donning a black sweater emblazoned with a huge pair of bright yellow sunglasses and wiggly paste-on eyes. You're sure to be noticed at a holiday party in a tan fleece number finished off with red garland and old fashioned Christmas lights that actually illuminate with the click of a switch.

"I'm doubting we'll see two of the same, unless somebody asks for that," Beavers said of the ugly sweater collection. "I kind of think somebody's going to come in and say, 'I really love that one. Can you make me that? I'll come back and buy it on Dec. 4.'"

One of Beavers' favorite creations, "Oh, Deer," a hunting-themed sweater, is already sold. The beige, zip-up sweater features a deer's backside on the front, a package of hand warmers and a large, gaudy chartreuse poinsettia.

"I don't even know where the bear and the 'Go Red' dress came in at. I don't even remember sticking that on there," Beavers said, marveling at her work. "It's beautiful!"

When all is said and done, Beavers hopes to raise between $1,500 and $2,000 for Mercy Home Care patients. Lea Greathouse, executive director of the Mercy Foundation, will set up an account and manage the funds, which will purchase walkers, canes, shower benches, smoke alarms, hand railings and other safety equipment to help Mercy Home Care patients stay in their homes and thrive.

"You'd be surprised how many of our patients don't have the means to get those things that they need. Their insurance doesn't cover it, or their income is very low or they may not have families," Beavers said. "Their resources are just tapped and they don't have a way to get that stuff."

Now, they will, thanks to the popularity of tacky Christmas sweaters and the efforts of volunteers.

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Health and Lifestyles reporter

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